Council backs decision allowing Bier Garden to open windows

Council backs decision allowing Bier Garden to open windows
Bier Garden’s windows will be open until 10 p.m. in the future as a result of a 3-2 City Council vote this Wednesday. Residents fear the unfastened windows will make a loud area even noisier. Photo by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — To the chagrin of some living at Pacific Station, the City Council voted 3-2 to reaffirm the Planning Commission and let Bier Garden open its windows until 10 p.m. every night. 

Bier Garden, located in the mixed-use Pacific Station development, got permission from the Planning Commission last month to retract its windows. But Pacific Station residents appealed the Planning Commission decision, arguing the windows should close at 8 p.m. instead to limit further noise.

Councilman Tony Kranz, who voted in favor of the 10 p.m. closing time, said many residents have questioned why the City Council is considering the appeal.

“It’s a mixed-use area,” Kranz said. “It’s got the restaurants. It’s got the bars.” He added that many constituents have relayed the message that Pacific Station residents should have known what to expect when moving there.

Nicholas Chan and four other homeowners at Pacific Station filed the Planning Commission appeal. Chan said the homeowners invested $1,250 toward an independent sound study to gauge how much noise in the area is coming from Bier Garden.

Equipment recorded averages of roughly 60 decibels at night, with highs nearing 70 decibels. And the study attributed some of the noise to Bier Garden, Chan noted. He told councilmembers that opening the windows will cause the noise levels to rise.

“We can’t sleep at night, and we need your help,” Chan said. He added that calling the police is “not a viable long-term option.”

City staff members have received five written complaints regarding noise from Bier Garden. In response, they’re tracking sound levels before and after the windows open.

If sound levels increase more than three decibels on average once the windows retract, the windows could be closed again until “mitigation measures are adopted,” according to the city’s staff report.

The report also noted that the appeal was only to discuss the windows, not to mull over soundproofing for Bier Garden.

Resident Shirley Finch said that Bier Garden is more rowdy than Barracuda Grill, the previous occupant of the space.

She said a deemed-approved ordinance, which the city is currently developing for later consideration, would help the city regulate what new and old alcohol-serving establishments can and cannot do.

Marco Gonzalez, an attorney representing Bier Garden, said that the establishment closes at midnight, and at no point morphs into a wild bar.

He added that the Sheriff’s Department recommended that the windows close at 10 p.m.

Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer made a motion to close Bier Garden’s rear patio windows, which face the Pacific View condominiums, by 8 p.m.

And she said the front windows near Coast Highway 101 should remain open until 10 p.m.

Mayor Teresa Barth backed that motion, while the other councilmembers opposed it.

Councilmember Kristin Gaspar, who voted against the residents’ appeal, said 10 p.m. is the “benchmark” for when similar establishments have to close their windows. And she added that Bier Garden is busiest from 6 to 10 p.m.

“The applicant did say 6 to 10 (p.m.) is their peak time, so I do have a concern that is a financial loss and a reason for that business to pursue all legal options should we hold them to a standard that doesn’t exist today,” Gaspar said.

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  1. Paul Moeller says:

    I’ve been to the Bier Garden a couple times now, and don’t intend to go back. Unless they change management or do something to improve the service and attitude of their employees, this business soon be defunct… and (until somebody else takes it over and runs it in a responsible, professional way) the whole noise level issue will be a moot point.

  2. Cyrus Kamada says:

    The Planning Commission’s guideline on approving new construction such as retractable windows is that the new feature may not raise the noise level more than 3 DB above the ambient level. Here is the problem with that rule:

    - Suppose Business A proposes new construction that meets the 3DB limit, but also raises the ambient noise level by 2DB.

    - Now suppose Business B proposes new construction. Since Business A raised the ambient level by 2DB, Business B’s ambient baseline is now 2DB higher!

    In other words, the noise level can increase without limit as long as each increase is less than 3DB above the ambient baseline, because the baseline keeps creeping up.

    At a minimum, a static ambient noise threshold should be established for each zoning jurisdiction and businesses should be required to demonstrate that they do not exceed this threshold.

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